Dr. Robert R. Holthaus, pediatrician, dies

Dr. Robert R. Holthaus, a retired pediatrician who cared for thousands of Baltimore-area children during his nearly 30-year career and a noted autograph collector, died Sunday of cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care.

The Glen Arm resident was 71.

The son of a Baltimore police officer and a homemaker, Dr. Holthaus was born in Baltimore and raised in Highlandtown.

He was a 1957 graduate of Patterson High School and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1961.

Dr. Holthaus earned his medical degree in 1965 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and after completing pediatric training at what is now Mercy Medical Center, he entered private practice.

For the next 27 years until retiring in 1997, Dr. Holthaus maintained offices on Northern Parkway and in White Marsh.

"He was our children's pediatrician, and I worked with Bob years ago when I was a nurse and he was a resident at Mercy," said Kay Gillis, who lives in Lutherville and whose son married Dr. Holthaus' daughter.

"He was a wonderful doctor and people were all the time coming in and telling me how wonderful he was. I still bump into people who say, 'Is Heidi Gillis your daughter-in-law? Her father took care of our kids.' We were also close personal friends," Mrs. Gillis said.

"He had the ability at putting children at ease through his mannerisms. He was able to talk to them on their level," Mrs. Gillis said. "Nobody ever minded going to see him because he was so kind."

Mrs. Gillis' son, Robert Gillis, and Dr. Holthaus' daughter, Heidi, both attended Gettysburg College.

"I knew he was going to be there, but my father kept saying, 'Robert Gillis is going to be in your class,'" said the daughter. "I really didn't know him, but we found ourselves living in the same dorm and then started dating. We got married 10 years ago," said Mrs. Gillis, who lives in Towson.

She said she came in for a lot of friendly teasing from her college classmates and friends.

"They'd say, 'Don't you think it's a little weird that your father saw your husband nude before you did?'" she said with a laugh.

Wherever he went, it seemed, Dr. Holthaus encountered former patients.

"He always enjoyed running into former patients after his retirement, as it gave him the opportunity to see the adults his young patients had become," said Heidi Gillis.

Dr. Holthaus was an avid collector whose interests were wide-ranging. He collected decoys, toy soldiers and history books.

He also had assembled a large collection of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century autographs that included such Maryland figures as Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Francis Scott Key and the Dulaney family of Dulaney Valley.

Some of his presidential autographs included those of James Monroe, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

Dr. Holthaus also acquired many signatures of actors and writers such as Humphrey Bogart and Ernest Hemingway.

"He even had gotten all the signatures of those who had raised the flag at Iwo Jima during World War II," said his daughter.

Dr. Holthaus was an accomplished skeet shooter who was a 1992 state champion. He was an active member of the Loch Raven Skeet and Trap Club in Towson and the Salisbury Gun Club on the Eastern Shore.

Dr. Holthaus was an avid gardener and enjoyed surf fishing and antiquing.

He was a communicant of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3911 Sweet Air Road, Phoenix, Baltimore County, where services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

In addition to his daughter, Dr. Holthaus is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Joan Bruns; three other daughters, Lauri Bartlett and Jodi Mister, both of Baldwin, and Molli Carter of Selbyville, Del.; two sisters, Barbara Conrad of Parkville and Evelyn Zitzer of Lake Mary, Fla.; and four grandchildren.


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